Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Our LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. We’re proud to offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. We envision a Sonoma County where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
From the Beginning:
In January of 1990, Positive Images opened its doors as a co-creation of Beverlee Laird and Jim Foster, MFT. The first meeting was held in Jim Foster’s counseling office located in Santa Rosa. It was attended by 5 young gay men who were desperate for support, connection, and community. Due to demand, the bimonthly Thursday night support meetings soon became weekly after the first year. Today there is an average attendance of 30 members (plus a few adult volunteers) at every meeting.
PI began giving panel presentations the Spring of 1990, serving as a resource for high-school classes, GSA’s, and “Diversity Days.” Panel presentations have evolved into to more formal LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings. Today we receive presentation and training requests from Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University, high schools, middle schools, social service agencies, churches, community groups, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and government agencies.
In the summer of 1992, Positive Images began a mentor program that trained and supported LGBTQIA+ adults who had the desire and commitment to work with LGBTQIA+ youth. Mentoring in the first years were formal one-on-one relationships of six months between a PI member and PI volunteer. Adult volunteers can now serve PI in many ways: assisting with fundraising efforts and special events, providing expertise in non profit organizational support, giving regular donations, or becoming a Board Member.
June’s Pride Month activities have always been an important commitment for Positive Images. In our first year (1990), we marched in Sonoma County’s first Pride parade, and then marched with LYRIC [Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center] in San Francisco’s parade. We haven’t missed a year or parade since. Participation in Pride parades and festivals is a definite statement of our organization’s presence, outreach, and commitment to the beautiful Sonoma County community. Visibility is an especially vital aspect of community-building for youth and young adults. As PI co-founder Jim Foster says, “You can’t help but feel good about declaring who you are when marching down the street and carrying the PI banner. This is a very powerful act in countering any shame.”
The first official Positive Images office was created in 1994 – a tiny room located at 1023 4th St. in Santa Rosa. It was a co-creation of Todd and Dawn, who were co-facilitators at the time. In October 1994, they put on a “HomeComing-Out” dance, and later the first Positive Images Valentine’s Dance in February 1996.
The PI Parents’ Support Group began in the summer of 1998, headed by Ray and Jill Tarap, and Deb and Robert Lane. The primary focus of this group was providing support and education to parents of LGBTQIA+ youth. They were also instrumental community building activities, like getting parents together to attend and march in the Sonoma County and San Francisco Pride Parades.
In 1998, the PI office moved down the hall into its first full-sized space – Suite “B”- which served as headquarters for the organization and allowed for growth over the next four years. In 1999, Nancy Vogl joined Positive Images and created a unique co-executive directorship with Jim Foster). The organization continued to grow and evolve until it became apparent that more space was desperately needed.
In the Fall of 2003, PI seized a timely opportunity to move into a house on Chinn Street. This location would be PI’s home for many years and is fondly remembered my many in our community as our home base. With more members ever, and larger participation in all of our programming, we eventually outgrew the Chinn Street house.
2015 was a BIG year for Positive Images! Jim Foster was ready to retire after many years of dedicated service. We honored Jim at our 25th Anniversary Gala, an intimate evening where PI alumni, supporters, and community leaders shared stories, tears, and a commitment to the work that is needed now more than ever.
In 2016 a determined Board of Directors found PI a new home across the street from our long time Chinn Street location. We were able to grow from a small house to an entire LGBTQIA+ Community Center located at 200 Montgomery Drive Suite C Santa Rosa, Ca.
We are now in 2019! After 29 years of serving only youth and young adults, we have expanded our services and programming to folks of all ages. Our LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts Youth Support Groups (12-24), a Youth Leadership Development Program, Youth Art Jams, Adult Support Groups (20s&30s), as well as meeting space for many local community groups. We are excited looking toward the future and moving into our 30th year of serving the LGBTQIA+ community of Sonoma County.